I will start with the Chairman's question about the statistics and how we came up with them. As the committee knows, the problem with undocumented or irregular migration is that it is unknown. No one has accurate figures on it, including the State. They are very hard to come by. Undocumented migration is calculated by examining a number of people who were apprehended by the State and in whose cases the process of deportation was started. A number of people are issued with deportation orders that are not enforced. We are talking about 13,000 people, more or less. On top of that, a number of people are undetected, which means that the State and the authorities do not know whether they are resident in the country. We used a coefficient derived from studies of the most similar country to ours, namely, the United Kingdom. The figures are based on the number of visas and permits issued every year. A percentage of those granted visas and permits overstay their residence. All together, we came up with three estimates, what we call low, medium and high estimates, to allow for these three types of situation. This is outlined on the reverse of the infographic distributed to the committee. The figure is stated as ranging from 20,000 to 26,000 because we have used a low to a high estimate. This allows for the impossibility of arriving at an exact estimate and follows models that have been used abroad.
I will address some of the other points raised. Neither asylum and direct provision nor any other issue related to immigration falls within the Ombudsman for Children's remit. In so far as undocumented children are children, certain aspects of the issue fall under the ombudsman's remit, but interaction with the immigration system does not, which is a problem. I refer back to my point about prioritising the best interests of the child in all aspects of our legislation, including immigration legislation.
Deputy Jan O'Sullivan talked about limited regularisation. It is limited in the sense that it is done only for people who have entered the country with an employment permit. The main reason there are pockets of undocumented people in the State is that, as Ms McGinley said, there are many issues with our employment permit legislation and it is very problematic. In addressing the issue of irregular migration as a whole, we need to reform our immigration system, including our labour migration system.
Deputy Chambers asked questions about work restrictions and so on. In general, there are two types of employment restriction. People on employment permits are tied to one employer and one job and have very limited opportunities to change employment. A person arrives to work for one employer and must stay under a system called the employment permit system for five years before he or she is given the right to change employer or sector. Therefore, because in this system people cannot change employment unless they go through a very difficult process, they can fall out of the system. In recognition of this problem, this regularisation mechanism was introduced. The Deputy talks about extending it. We would propose a solution to the problem of everyone else, that is, people who arrived on student and other types of visas. The other type of restriction we have concerns people who are here as international students, who number about 40,000. They can work for 20 hours per week, 40 hours during very specific holiday terms.
Regarding taxes and why some people pay taxes while others do not, it depends on how one entered the State. If one did so on a valid permit such as a student permit, it would have been possible to secure a PPS number. If one has a PPS number, one gives it to one's employer. There are no other checks and the employer can pay tax in respect of the person. Of course, not every employer wants to do so, and if the worker does not have legal status, he or she does not have the bargaining power to request the employer to pay taxes. This is why we find only about 30% of people who are undocumented are paying taxes. When we talk about loss of revenue, we are talking about all the other 60% or 70% of people who were able to get PPS numbers or to ask their employers to pay taxes on their behalf. This is how we estimate the loss in revenue.
Deputy O'Sullivan also spoke about our commitments under the UN Charter. The problem about making a complaint is that Ireland has not signed up to the optional protocol that allows for individual complaints. Therefore, undocumented children cannot make individual complaints that we are failing to protect their rights under the charter. However, collective complaints are made, and the UN committee recommendation is a direct result of this. The UN committee has told Ireland it must implement regularisation. There are other avenues we can explore, such as making a collective complaint under the European Convention on Human Rights to the Council of Europe and so on.
Regarding interaction with the police and what happens if undocumented people are apprehended, Ireland does not have summary deportations, as Ms McGinley mentioned, so people cannot be picked up and deported.
Once one is apprehended, the deportation process starts, under which one can make an appeal for an application called a humanitarian leave to remain. The waiting time for an answer is approximately two years. The process can be triggered only when one is apprehended by a garda or an immigration officer.
Although Ireland signs approximately 2,000 to 3,000 deportation orders per year, it enforces only approximately 250 deportations per year. Only approximately 10% of people who are given deportation orders are deported, which is a good thing in our eyes. However, it is problematic given that Ireland is declining to deport people, for many reasons, but not giving them status. Their lives are blocked and they do not have access to services.
As Ms McGinley mentioned, we are faced with a number of people who are in an irregular situation. Introducing a regularisation system for people will address this. As I said earlier, the threshold could be, for example, four years. This is the minimum that can be done to address it. The committee is welcome to recommend something broader if it sees fit. We believe all undocumented children should have access to regularisation in order for Ireland to meet its international commitments. Our proposal is the minimum the State should do to address this today. If the committee wants to go further, please do so.
To ensure this does not happen again, we must examine our immigration legislation and pass immigration legislation that is comprehensive and flexible and have labour migration policies that are responsive to it. There are other key issues. Other European countries have mechanisms which mean children born there may acquire residency at a certain age. This is to be discussed in a much larger space.